Steroid Case: A Bid To “Scare People Straight”?


The ongoing steroid case involving the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or Balco, is not so different from a case involving street drugs, reports the New York Times. “It’s the way all drug cases work,” said Michael Rains, attorney for San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, whose personal trainer, Greg Anderson, is one of four men charged in the case. Rather than killing each other off, Rains said, rivals in the Balco case “are ratting each other off.”

The investigation of Balco, which has led to charges of distributing steroids and laundering money, began as separate examinations by local and federal authorities and drug-testing experts. In the fall of 2002, the strands began to intertwine, leading to the detection of the designer steroid THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone. Five track stars and four professional football players have tested positive for the steroid, and suspicion exists about major league baseball players. About a dozen players, including Bonds, testified last fall before a federal grand jury in San Francisco. With baseball season here and the Athens Olympics approaching, sports officials are wondering whether more names will emerge.

Some defense lawyers, noting that the case has received priority in the Bush administration, said prosecutors appear interested beyond the manufacturers and distributors of muscle-building anabolic steroids, and may pursue athletes if they decide that million-dollar salaries are driving the demand for steroids. “It seems their greater purpose is to inform youth and the public about steroids,” George Walker, a San Francisco lawyer in the case. “What better way to inform and frighten our public than to have top athletes under a cloud of suspicion?” Another defense attorney, Alan Dressler, said, “I think they’re trying to scare people straight.”


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